Working at an Art Gallery: Benefits, Tips and Jobs

If you’re passionate about art and interested in working at an art gallery, you might be wondering about what a career in the art world looks like. For example, what types of job opportunities are available in a gallery setting and do you need to be an arts or design major to be eligible for them? To find out how to land a job at an art gallery, we spoke with Melanie Kimmelman, a promotion and events coordinator at the David Zwirner Gallery.

Here are some of the key things you need to know about working in the art world.

Art Galleries Explained | What Role does an Art Gallery play in the Art World

Tips for working at an art gallery

To help you prepare for a job working at an art gallery, consider the following tips:

Benefits of working at an art gallery

Working at an art gallery is a great opportunity if you enjoy being around and learning about art. Jobs at galleries can benefit your knowledge, help you gain experience and give you access to current artistic trends. Heres a closer look at some of the benefits of working in an art gallery to help you decide if a career in this industry is the right choice for you:

Types of jobs at an art gallery

All the types of jobs at an art gallery help support and promote artists and their unique styles. Each job has its own unique set of duties, but many of these duties overlap to create a cohesive and successful gallery environment. Here are some common jobs you might find at art galleries:

Gallerist or gallery owner

Gallerists or gallery owners run galleries and direct the work of their employees to create an aesthetic for their audience. These are the highest level employees in an art gallery. They choose the art displayed in their gallery, find new artists and hire employees to help operations run smoothly.

Gallery manager

The gallery manager guides employees and helps the gallerist achieve their goals. Typically, gallery managers handle business operations and the everyday care of their gallery. They may introduce the owner to artists or make suggestions about exhibits.

Archivist

Art archivists are professionals in caring for fragile art, especially historical art or pieces that they must keep in certain conditions. The duties of an archivist include researching and recording information about these pieces of art, storing and handling them safely and alerting other employees about the fragility of art pieces. These employees may have a degree in art history or preservation.

Art handler

Art handling is an entry-level position in galleries that many art students and artists fulfill, either part time or during their own exhibits. Handlers use information from archivists and directors to move art safely and help install it in places chosen by the gallery manager and owner. This job requires physical stamina and strength to move heavy pieces of art safely.

FAQ

What do you do when you work in an art gallery?

Although you might specialize in one area of gallery work, it’s important to prepare for many duties like administrative tasks, helping install art pieces and contacting artists or patrons with urgent information.

What is it like working in an art gallery?

The gallery may look pristine, calm and relaxed – but that doesn’t mean that the people working in it aren’t frantically busy sometimes. Every week presents us with new challenges, but also with new sources of interest and enjoyment. The main thing that we’ve found is to expect the unexpected.

What skills do you need to work in an art gallery?

Skills and qualities
  • organisational skills to plan and manage exhibitions.
  • communication skills to work with other members of staff, answer visitors’ queries and give talks.
  • attention to detail when researching and cataloguing objects.
  • business and marketing skills.
  • creative ability to make a display or exhibition appealing.

What is it called when you work at an art gallery?

A gallerist is an owner or operator of an art gallery. Gallerists buy and sell artworks, and they often focus on higher-end pieces that carry premium prices. Gallerists may also work with curators and art dealers to determine which pieces to show.

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